Category Archives: PTO Chair Message

Special Announcement

Dear WES families,
With the closing of our schools, we will need to cancel/postpone any scheduled PTO events. This includes the Book Fair, originally scheduled for next week. As we receive additional information, we will certainly keep you updated.
We live in a strong community that can be a great source of support during these uncertain times. We hope your families stay safe and healthy (and busy) over the next few weeks. Please click here to view some educational websites.
Please don’t hesitate to let us know if you have any questions or comments.

Christie & Candice, PTO Co-chairs

Fundraising Campaign a Success!

Thank you for all of the generous support of the We Love WES fundraising campaign. We are happy to report that the WES community exceeded the fundraising goal, with a grand total of $6,241 raised!  Your contributions help support the many opportunities that help make WES such a special school!

PTO Meeting Reminder

The May PTO meeting will be held tomorrowMay 1st, at 7pm in the WES library. Parents are always welcome and encouraged to attend PTO meetings.  Childcare is provided in the gym.  Hope to see you there!

PTO Meeting Reminder

The April PTO meeting will be held tomorrowApril 3rd, at 7pm in the WES library.  Parents are always welcome and encouraged to attend PTO meetings.  Childcare is provided in the gym.  Hope to see you there!

Box Tops Results

Thanks to all of your clipping this school year, we have raised over $1,600 for WES through the BoxTops program! The following classes will receive an extra recess for collecting the most Box Tops at each grade level this spring: Mrs. Amenta’s PM Kindergarten, Mrs. Rufo, Mrs. Gaur, Ms. Gallagher, Mr. Sweeney, and Mrs. McGaffin. Look for a photo of Mrs. Gaur’s class in the front entrance bulletin board for being the overall winner. Keep clipping those BoxTops!

Oasis Night Thank You

We had a great turnout for Oasis Night last Monday! The students enjoyed the fun activities, while the parents enjoyed some downtime. This fun event raised approximately $1,000 for WES!

PTO Meeting Reminder

The March PTO meeting will be held tomorrowMarch 6th, at 7pm in the WES library.  Parents are always welcome and encouraged to attend PTO meetings.  Childcare is provided in the gym.  Hope to see you there!

PTO Volunteers

The PTO is looking for volunteers for the 2018-19 school year.  If you have a desire to get involved (in a big or small way), the Nominating Committee would love to find a place to utilize your time and talents.  Please email Christie Cari with your interest.  Although specific positions cannot be promised, we welcome the opportunity to learn about your availability and willingness to participate in our fantastic Parent Teacher Organization!  A description of current committees can be found here.

January PTO Meeting

Date Changed! The January PTO meeting has been moved from Tuesday, January 3rd to Thursday, January 5th at 7:00 pm in the Library! Please mark your calendars and join us as we kick off the new calendar year!

Success…With Thanks for a Job Well Done

So here it is. My last chance to share with you this year. As you’ve read in WES Mail and Mr. Peterkin’s messages over the course of the year, our PTO has been very active. We’ve held fundraisers and events; hosted speakers at our PTO meetings; fulfilled many wishes from the school’s wishlist; and welcomed new volunteers to our group. A few days ago, I was asked, “So, do you think the year was a success?” And that got me thinking…..about what success is and what that means.

When I was younger, my mom used to write quotes on my lunchbag every day. I think she probably started doing that when I was in fifth or sixth grade, and she continued until I graduated. In all that time, I don’t remember even seeing a repeat! Those messages are some of the most treasured messages of my life. Little reminders. Encouraging words. Hopeful thoughts. Poetry. Sage advice, through and through.

It was my mom who first introduced me to the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and I’ve turned back to his wisdom again and again as I’ve grown older. A favorite message from my youth still holds the same value and importance today. It’s called, aptly enough, “Success”.

“Success….To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

I know that the person inquiring as to whether or not the year was a success was not asking for me to answer with poetry, but Emerson’s poem was the first thing that came to mind. I hope that our PTO kept closely to our budget and made people happy with our decisions, but ultimately, whether or not it was a success is right there in those few lines….Did we create a welcoming community where people felt valued and heard? I hope so. Did we foster an environment where new ideas could be shared and considered? I hope so. Did we leave the world a bit better through our efforts? I KNOW so.

And so, in my opinion, a successful year it was, and it couldn’t have happened without the efforts of all of our dedicated volunteers. Thus, it is with deep appreciation that I thank our PTO volunteers (listed in the order in which they appear on our website):

Liz Orye, Sara Fritz, Michelle Hall, Frank Grunseich, Elizabeth Hortua, Daphne Bogert, Tammy McCauley, Brian McCauley, Stephanie Cavanagh, Sara Hassell, Jennifer Jamieson, Jennifer Loving, Joni Perlman, Danielle Wilson, Kelly Dignazio, Amy Caruso, Susan Chieffo, Brynne Bruno, Olivia Miller, Deborah Kane, Kim Killeen, Regina Nangle, Erica Kaufman, Natalie Marra, Janet Faggioli, Tami Traynor-Wible, Katie Czaplicki, Gabrielle Miller, Torrey Jenkins, Kelly Whitehead, Jon Bogert, Dana Pickup, Colleen Glackin, Jennifer Ryder, Deidre Abrahamsson, Kim Shinners, Karen Dougherty, Patti LeStourgeon, Heidi Bishoff, Lauren Plummer, Hope Thurlow, Mario Gentile, Hillary O’Connor, Nicole McLaughlin, Molly Vail, Rochelle Kelly, Eileen Morgans, Maria Garcia, Valerie McAdoo, Suzanne Lothrop, Beth Noto, Paige Homan, Jenny Montague, Kristie Beucler, Lisa Hill, Andy Jasner, Taryn Jasner, Maura Clark, Joni Perlman, Amy Taimanglo, Allison Karpyn and Paul Fritz.

To our dedicated volunteers, all of the families of WES, and our outstanding teachers, staff, and administrators—thank you, thank you, thank you.

It was a privilege to work alongside you all this year. I am grateful for your kindness and support, and thankful for the opportunity to serve this school and this community. Thank you for being part of WES’s success this year. The gift of your time, your ideas, and your hard work is valued more than you know. With deepest thanks, Michelle.

The Answer to How is Yes: Creating Community

I’ll freely admit it—with my children at the young ages they are, until about two months ago, I think the only things I’ve read for the past eight years are the back of cereal boxes, notes from school, and the occasional Gillian Flynn novel. But I’ve had the burning desire to read something with substance and depth again–to not be so tired and overwhelmed at the end of the day that I fall asleep on the couch five minutes after we get the kids to bed. Whether you’re knee deep in diapers and bottles, or have sent your last child on his or her way out of the nest, I know you can relate to those blissful, wonderful, fruitful—but tiring—“little kid years”.

So, now that the timbre of my days is changing, I picked up a book I’ve been longing to read. You may know the author, Peter Block, a man deftly skilled in the art of organizational development and community building. He writes about relationship, connectedness, and community. He writes about citizenship and accountability. His premise, woven throughout all of his books, is that the individual benefits only in, with, and by the COMMUNITY. He advocates servant leadership above all else. Even just the titles of some of his most notable works tell of his heart for service and togetherness—Community: The Structure of Belonging; Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest; and, the one I’m reading now—The Answer to How is Yes: Acting on What Matters.

It is a great book—easy to read and incredibly relevant. Perhaps the most important premise of The Answer to How is Yes is this—that we have the power, the freedom, and the capacity to create the world that we want to live in. We need not be stifled by thoughts that we must be satisfied with “the way it has always been”, nor deterred by the fact that the journey to where we want to be may be arduous and long. If we can develop that vision and that sense of a common goal or goals, Block posits, we can create exactly what it is that we truly want.

Thus, it seems fitting, as I “graduate” from the school of cereal box wisdom, that this book should be on my bedside table. Now–in this time–this message seems all the more vital, as we join together to hear the ideas and plans and dreams that lie before us in the WES Master Plan to which Paul Fritz has so generously been devoting his time.

In the course of our discussions at our meetings over the last few months, we’ve heard about the possibilities for our community to consider that will take WES from being “a nice little school in a great little town” to potentially being a community hub where generations of families can grow, learn, and give back. There are various iterations of the plan, which include ideas ranging from an outdoor classroom to a more creative play environment to a sustainable garden to a walking path. It is an exciting time and we have an exciting future ahead of us.

Of course, there are questions of time and money, and I do not dismiss those concerns. They are valid and they are real. But, as we find when we seek to act on what truly matters—the answer to how is yes. We cannot ignore the questions of “how long will this be?” and “how much will it cost?”, but we shouldn’t let those questions become our guiding principles.

Our guiding principles should remain true to the fabric of our community. What is it that we want? How can WE—as a community—-create the world in which we want to live? This is not a pass-through place. Whether your family has lived here for a hundred years, or you’ve been here for a hundred days, you’re part of this community. The WES Master Plan is but a seedling now, but with your input, ideas, and support, it can grow and be sustained by countless families to come. This is not about one person’s child, or one person’s ideas, or one year in any of our lives….this is about how we can work together to create something for our collective neighborhood that transcends any ONE of us, and in the process, bring forth exceptional community.

Roses and Thorns

Each night, our family shares our “Roses and Thorns” around the table at dinner time. If you ever went to sleepaway camp, you’re probably familiar with the tradition of sharing something good that happened to you that day, as well as something not-so-great, with your bunkmates. Our family is no different—we share the news of the day, good and bad, often with lots of laughter, and sometimes with a few tears.

Over the course of our roses and thorns tradition, I’ve learned that there are lots of things I can do well: such as attentive listening; consoling my children on their rough days; making my friends laugh; and the highly under-rated talent of supporting my point by instantly recalling the lyrics to virtually any rap song from the ‘90s.

However, just as I’ve had opportunity to happily share the good things that have happened over the course of my days, and to pride myself on my strengths; I’ve also had to acknowledge the ways in which I’ve felt bad or made someone else feel bad. I’ve had to admit to the times that I’ve felt stressed and overwhelmed and angry and just plain dissatisfied. I’ve had to accept my shortcomings when I haven’t lived up to expectations—my own or others. I’ve had to dwell in the valley…sometimes for a long time….sharing long, sharp thorns graced only by a few, rather withered roses.

I don’t know if this tradition is one that will be helpful to my children or not. I certainly hope it is. I hope it serves to reinforce their positive self-image. I hope it fills them with memories of laughter so hard their stomachs hurt. I hope it will help them know that their parents are only human.  I hope they remember lively discussions and develop into adolescents with strong minds and free wills. I hope that they will remember the tears as much as the smiles, because light can only be perceived when we know the shadow. I hope this tradition will serve to remind them that hugs are freely given in our house—that support is unconditional. I hope it will make them kind and humble people. I think we will have succeeded as parents even if we can do only that.

This is what I wish for our community, too. Granted, we’d feel a little cramped if all of WES squeezed around my modest dining room table, so it’s probably wiser to share your roses and thorns in a venue other than my family room. But I hope you will share your thoughts about WES and, specifically, how the PTO can serve our school and our community. What have you seen this year that you feel is working well? What have you seen this year that you feel could be changed? Positive feedback and constructive criticism freely accepted and welcomed. Are there things you see other schools doing that you think might work here? Do you have a certain skill or talent that you’d like to share, but haven’t seen an outlet for doing so yet? Let us know. There are surely a myriad of new things to try that we haven’t even thought of yet!

I hope that, if you’re reading this, you’ll take a few minutes to reflect on our parent-teacher organization and think of what you’d like to see it become. Please email me, call me, stop me in line at the supermarket—share YOUR thoughts. We cannot be in community alone. Bring your roses and your thorns. Help us to serve.


Preparing to Wait

Boy, am I glad that you can’t see my family room right now. My family celebrates Christmas, and so we’re still in the throes of decorating. Boxes piled six deep, stuff everywhere….the temptation is there to just pull it all out of the boxes and put it somewhere. Get the lights out and just wrap them around the tree already! Put the decorations out here and there and just call it a day. Let’s just finish it. Bam—decorating, done.

But so much work has already been done….in how our collection of special things has been lovingly cultivated over the years, with things passed down through the generations for my family to enjoy, and those families of my family who may one day follow… how I so carefully wrapped each thing at the end of the season last year to store it for the long summer….in how Frank lugged each huge box out of our very inconvenient attic….in how the kids patiently took each piece out and got them ready. I know in my heart that I don’t really want it to go like that. I know I’d be disappointed if I just rushed through. I’d miss the process. I’d miss the joy of creating something bigger. If you celebrate Christmas in your house, or even if you don’t and you just know a bit about the customs, you know that it’s a season of preparing to wait. And so, ultimately, I know that it will (eventually!) look beautiful in here. I just need to think it through and decide and put each piece just where I want it. I know I’ll be happier in the end.

As many of you know, as WES was undergoing construction, all of the parent-teacher organization functions were still ongoing and funds were being raised. The generosity of those families who’ve gone before us have given us a bequest. We are stewards of those gifts. Now that the building construction is complete, we are presented with the beautiful opportunity to envision what our landscape and grounds might grow to become in the future.

For those of you who were able to attend our November meeting, you heard Paul Fritz, landscape architect (and a parent in our WES community!), outline some of his suggestions and ideas for a master plan for WES. It’s an idea that is planned to happen in stages, so that we might take on a little bit each year, cultivating and tending our landscape as it continues to grow and become a welcoming and inviting place for the children of WES and the children of our whole community.

I can empathize with you if you feel that the temptation to want to just take the money and quickly spend it. I can completely understand the desire to “just hurry up and get things planted!” I don’t blame you if you think, “come on, already, I want something there for MY kids.” But if you feel those things, as many probably do, I encourage you to take the long view. Don’t be like me at Christmas decorating time—just wanting to pull everything out and put it somewhere. So much work has already been done…in how our beautiful building was planned and created….in how those families who’ve gone on before us have left us with a legacy to tend… how we’ve worked and raised funds and contributed our time and money….let’s not rush it now. The time is upon us to act without undue delay, but without undue haste.

Something beautiful is on the horizon. Let’s plan and decide and do each part just as we want it for our community. We’ll be so much happier in the end.

The Best of Intentions

Ahhh, yes. November 17th. There’s nothing quite like the cold, hard reality of mid-November when there are items on your “to-do” list with “Finish by September ___” next to their entry. At least, there are items on my “to-do” list that look like that. I’ve heard that there are people out there who check off their entire “to-do” list each day….whose homes are always clean and clutter-free….whose children are always perfectly behaved and perfectly dressed…..whose jobs are going great and whose relationships are always mutually supportive and constantly fulfilling. I’ve heard about people like that….but, admittedly, I’ve never met any.

Which is probably why I shouldn’t be surprised that some of my September “must-do”s remain “haven’t done”s even into November. Because life has happened in the meantime. Some of it has been great—school parties and playdates and date nights. And some of it has been, admittedly, not quite so great—doctor visits and household calamities and arguments with my husband. Life has happened—both the good and the bad….and here my list still sits. I can almost feel those September “to-do”s smirking at me self-satisfyingly, as if the words could jump off the page and laugh at me for thinking I could get it all done.

If you’ve read this far, I would first like to thank you, and second, I’ll answer the question that might be going through your head at this point….”So, what does any of this have to do with volunteering for PTO?” You’d think nothing, right? That it’s just me, pouring my heart out about my inability to get everything done, begging for any help I can get? But in reality, that’s not it at all. Our school is full of wonderful volunteers who have taken on multiple projects this year and who have capably gotten their work done (despite my leadership!) We have mothers and fathers and grandparents and aunts and uncles and people everywhere who are consistently willing to step up and offer new ideas and take plans in new directions for our school. And I’ll bet half of them have “to-do” lists that look like mine does—well-intentioned, but not necessarily complete.

Which just might be what makes them the best volunteers WES could ask for. Because they don’t think of their work as ever being done. Because they have decided to take the long view on effective time management. Because they’ve made plans and strategized their days and weeks and months and still have let life happen in the meantime.

If you’re reading this as a current volunteer, I hope you know how loved and appreciated you are by our school community. You are a vital part of our children’s growth and happiness. Your time is valued, as are your thoughts, opinions, and ideas. None of it would happen without you.

If you’re reading this as a potential volunteer, I hope you know how much we want you to serve alongside us. As you are raising a child in our school, I hope you know how important you are to our community. We want your thoughts, opinions, and ideas. We want your praise and your constructive criticism. We want you to share the unique gifts you have to bring to our group of volunteers.

If you have the time and inclination, I encourage you, my dear reader, to think deeply about servant leadership. And hey, if your “to-do” list still has those items from September on it, don’t think deeply—just google it. Because the most important characteristics are the easiest ones to find. They are: Listening, Empathy, Healing, Awareness, Persuasion, Conceptualization, Foresight, Stewardship, Commitment to the growth of People, and Building Community.

When you look around at the students, teachers, staff, and administration at WES, you’ll find that—to a person—these characteristics are personified in every one. The same is true of our volunteers, too. Whether you’re one now, or you’re considering how you can be part of this great community, I thank you. We cannot make great things happen without you.